There could hardly be more of a contrast to Sip’s house-music-thumping, disco-light-bumping club atmosphere on a Saturday night than Danielle Darden’s show of photographs, The Marian Devotions. The 14 pieces featuring six different models follow a simple theme: pretty girls in veils.
Devotions is the first solo photo show for both Darden and Sip. While Darden works in both digital and film formats, the pieces mounted in Devotions are all digital, as she wanted to prove that it’s possible to achieve the same depth with digital images.
The photographs, each of which consists of the three stark elements of model, veil and white background, exude pure femininity and lack the sexualized male gaze that often saturates portraits of women. Veils have been used in history to stifle and silence women, and in the West are often interpreted as a sign of women’s oppression in cultural contexts. While the work in Devotions is subtle, the women in it are bold, their emotions taking center stage.
Since Darden chose to use friends as models in Devotions, there is an appealing openness to the portraits. The models’ expressions range from seductive to bored, in contrast to the lacy shroud they hide behind.
Raw and forward, like the sensual feminine side Jung found lurking in everyone (male or female), Devotions was described by Sip curator Heidi Kneisl as “one of the best art shows we’ve had here in awhile.” The works are deceptively quiet. They sneak up like Camus’ L’Etranger: simple at first glance, but gaining more meaning the more they are contemplated.
Working within such a concise structure (pretty girls in veils) could come across as a gimmicky artistic device. Granted, some of the photos, like “Devotion Nine,” fail to transcend the concept and rely solely on the aesthetics of the model. Others, though, especially “Devotion Eight,” are strong enough to survive as standalone pieces.
The Marian Devotions will be on display through March 6 at Sip, 724 Virginia Drive (sip-orlando.com); Sip’s next show is an exhibition by Chad Pollpeter.
Closing Saturday, Feb. 25, is UCF Gallery’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (gallery.cah.ucf.edu). While the very wide spectrum of media and artists can come across as hodgepodge, the curators succeed in presenting the work in a cohesive manner that makes visual sense. They hoped with this juried exhibition to get locals talking – and get bodies into the large and well-appointed gallery – so come out and join the discussion before it ends.
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